Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beyond Afghanistan – Let’s Plan Ahead For A Change

The July 25, 2010 publication of classified documents by Wikileaks (see: was yet another call to examine the war in Afghanistan. Once again contractors and budgets were flouted and profiled.

Regrettably it’s all too easy to harrumph about today’s conflicts and mumble about the PSYOP/MISO name change, it is not so easy to step back and think about the next potential conflict and the one after that. In my Tactical Intelligence Course that I teach for American Military University I have a discussion board where I let the students ask me any question they would like. One of them asked me about AFRICOM.

Candidly I really didn’t know too much about that command’s successes and failures.
I was aware recent terrorist activity and the nature of the mega cities found in Africa as well as Chinese investments and terrorist and pirate hotbeds in the Horn of Africa. While, I don’t consider myself very knowledgeable and I am a big fan of the Penguins of Madagascar, most of my geographic knowledge about Africa comes from my childhood days as a stamp collector.

Which brings me to preparing for tomorrow’s missions – given the gut wrenching pace of today’s optempo, are we (the Community) devoting strategy and learning time for Africa, Latin America and South East Asia? How many of today’s junior soldiers and company grade officers know the cultural differences between Eritrea and Ethiopia? Do we have a trained cadre of influence professionals who can credibly work in embassies as well as navigate the streets of Lagos?

Perhaps a good start is to offer an elective class in PSYOP qualification training where students can do their own country study but which harnesses the power of the Internet and encourages creativity in learning through providing a small stipend or budget that can be used for books, stamps of the nation, meals at ethnic restaurants, etc. Who knows it might even make military learning fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Proposed New Law to Modify Smith-Mundt

On July 14, 2010, U.S. Congressmen Mac Thornberry (TX-13) and Adam Smith (D-WA), both members of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, introduced “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010” (H.R. 5729)
( see

According to the Press Release which can be found at the above link: ““While the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was developed to counter communism during the Cold War, it is outdated for the wars of today,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected populations. An essential part of our efforts must be a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to counter their radical messages and undermine their recruitment abilities. To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums – especially online.”

The bill’s co-sponsors include: Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), James Langevin (D-RI), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Ted Poe (R-TX), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), and John Tanner (D-TN)

This would be an opportune time to contact your Congress person and help them understand the importance of the work we do.

I’ll leave it to you to use a name for it that you’re comfortable with.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Call Me Ishmael

The PSYOP name change continues to generate angst in the community. The Blog has received a very healthy selection of comments – all of which I have published so far. The comments are unedited to reflect the author’s thoughts, feelings and spelling.

I’ve spent the last 5 days immersed in a FTX as MISO Man – the influence subject matter expert. As such I’ve generated FRAGOs proposed campaigns, liaised with PAO and worked under the auspices of an experienced IO Officer in an environment simulating a Joint Expeditionary Task Force (JETF).

Outside of some tap dancing and explaining early on in the FTX, the name of my function appears to have absolutely no effect on my ability to develop missions and represent the influence world. I have employed commercial organizations as models to show how influence operations go straight to the customer (Marketing Communications) and information operations (PAO/PR) work through the media to get to the mind of the customer. Both disciplines work in concert to achieve the maximum reach and optimal effects.

Having said this, I suspect that the environment is too pristine. We have scant representation from the State Department and no contact with IOs, IGOs or NGOs. My gut tells me that the bland new name (MISO) would have a greater appeal with these non-military types than PSYOP. I also feel pretty strongly that it would be easier to explain the notion of MISO to a Congressional Delegation than it would be to explain exactly the same function and its importance while simultaneously laboring under the lingering specter of the negatives associated with PSYOP by non-military personnel.

We’re still early in the game and I’m curious if any of you out there have had any recent experience (or even past experience as a part of a Military Information Support Team (MIST)) that you can relate.

In the meanwhile – stay safe and keep the faith.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On The Firing Line

The smoke is still swirling around the MISOing of PSYOP. Rather than being able to sit back and analyze it all, I find myself on the front line (so to speak) as I undertake my role as the “PSYOP” Subject Matter Expert (SME) for an exercise at a major DoD School.

This is my third performance in this role, so I’m familiar with the scenario, the nature of the students and of course the faculty involved. The past two exercises have been pretty smooth in terms of information support to the hypothetical task force. Annex H for PSYOP was developed and there was significant interaction with Public Affairs and Strategic Communications under an Information Operations (IO) aegis as the exercise evovled.

The current mission is quite a bit different. First of all I had to update the Faculty on the details of the name change and provide them with the appropriate phraseology to convey to the students. This also meant answering a lot of questions for which there are frankly no answers.

Fortunately I have a few knowledgeable resources who came to my rescue so that I could put the best face forward for MISO possible under the circumstances. Since the exercise is predicated on a natural disaster and is less than a week long, my level of response should prove adequate.

But I candidly worry for my brothers and sisters in the PSYOP/MISO (forgive me the legacy usage) community who will have to devote their precious time to explaining the rationale for the name change, divine what other changes can be expected when and otherwise tap dance until the chain of command responds with some definitive answers.

I’m not so much worried about how SWC will adjust unit names or Branch descriptions, I’m frankly worried about the big picture. Will anything other than the name change? Will DOD decide that IO is a function or an overarching branch that should include MISO, EW, PAO and CNO. In either event, what new doctrine, organization or resources will be applied to elevate the information Battlefield Operating System to the level of kinetic warfare across the spectrum of conflict?

I’m also concerned that the recently touted ‘new’ Army strategy scheduled to be published in August 2010 was created in the kinetic world with little attention to the information battlefield and in spite of the growing specter of irregular warfare and the quagmires we find ourselves in with our forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else.

Let’s hope I’m just being a little paranoid, which is in my nature being an MI type who grew up in Brooklyn and that the powers that be have actually given the big picture some uncharacteristic deep thought.